Featured Rogue for July: Ryan Campbell

Ryan Campbell is a member of the Rogue Killer Bee’s coached by Brent Stein and Amy Baker. Ryan is our featured Rogue for July because of his inspiring journey from smoker and non-runner to half marathoner, with a marathon coming this fall! Here’s a brief Q&A with Ryan:

When and why did you start running?

At no point in my life, prior to taking up running, have I been the least bit athletic. I have exercised in fits and bursts, and gone on healthy diet kicks, but I never really stuck with anything and my weight fluctuated wildly. By the summer of 2015, I was about 250lbs, and living on a steady diet of pizza, beer, and cigarettes. After making some changes to my diet and seeing some positive results, I decided to find a good exercise plan that I could stick with. I had tried running several times over the years, but I never stuck with it for very long. So, in September, with the encouragement of a good friend, I signed up for the Brown Santa 5K, downloaded a couch-to-5K app, and began training on my own. For the next four months, I trained exclusively by myself on a middle school track down the street from me.

At first, running was simply a way for me to lose some weight. While it has certainly done that (I’ve lost close to 70lbs now), it quickly became much more than that. It became a huge source of confidence and a way for me to prove to myself that I could overcome huge challenges and accomplish what I put my mind to. Running has become one of the most important elements of my life, and I hope to keep running for many years to come.

Describe your first 5K or half marathon race experience. What did it mean to you?

My first race was the Brown Santa 5K in December 2015. I quickly learned that training on a track was not adequate preparation for running up and down hills on asphalt. The second half of the race was pure pain. This felt like the longest 3 miles I had ever run. I finished in about 32 minutes — a full 3 minutes slower than my fastest time on the track, and my shins were on fire. Regardless, I was thrilled to have completed my first race.

A month later, a friend convinced me to join Rogue Running and to sign up for the Grand Canyon Half Marathon. I needed a new challenge, and a 13.1 mile trail race at high elevation seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. When we woke up on race morning, there was snow on the ground and it was about 36°. The first 2 miles of the race were on a gravel path, and the weather wasn’t too bad, other than being cold. Then about two miles in, we took a sharp left turn onto a jeep trail. The next 11 miles were a blur of rain, sleet, snow, ankle deep mud, rocks, hills, and pain. I finished in 2:36, faster than anybody expected. This was a huge milestone for me. By now I was 45lbs down from my peak weight, four months smoke free, and I had just completed an extremely tough race.

What has been your biggest running-related challenge and how did you overcome it?

My biggest running-related challenge has been my own self-criticism and doubt. For most of these first two years of running, I have never been fully satisfied with my results. 32 minutes at my first 5K wasn’t good enough. 2:36 at my first half marathon wasn’t good enough. 1:52 at my second half marathon wasn’t enough of an improvement because it was a street race, not a trail race. A 10 minute PR at 3M two months later wasn’t impressive because 3M is “downhill” and “easy”. Then I shot for another PR at Austin on a humid 70°+ day — yeah, didn’t happen. Finally, running 8:00 miles on my third leg of a 30 hour, 200 mile relay a month later was somehow a letdown to my team. My only accomplishment that I was fully satisfied with at this point was an 8 minute PR at the 2016 Brown Santa 5K. After all these races, I was burnt out and getting close to a serious injury. I decided to take a month off from running to nurse my busted shins and to reflect on my accomplishments so far. I looked back at that last year and a half, and realized how much I had accomplished. I started to to really be amazed with myself. I knew that if I kept pushing myself this hard, I was going to seriously injure myself and not be able to run for a long time. So now I’m trying to focus on the big picture and not look at every single run and every single race as something I need to impress myself or anybody else with or turn into some kind of major accomplishment. I’m finally learning what it means to JFR.

What has been your biggest running achievement, or defining moment since you started?

Every race has been a great learning experience for me. However, a major turning point in my maturity as a runner occurred at the 2017 Grand Teton Half Marathon. I was just getting started on base building for Fall marathon training, and I really needed to be smart about this race. My coaches, Brent and Amy, were adamant that I didn’t race this. Up to this point, every time I said I wasn’t going to race, I did. That’s how I managed to burn myself out and nearly injure myself. This time, I took my coaches’ advice, and just had fun on the course. I took my time and soaked in all the amazing scenery around me. I felt like I didn’t have to race against myself or anyone else. I was just running for the sake of running, and doing it in the most beautiful place I have run to date.

What’s next?

This summer, I will be training with my fellow Killer B’s for my first marathon at Chicago with a goal time of 3:45. After that, the quest for the BQ begins!

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